Wal-Mart Informative - Power Steering fluid in the Brake System
WINCHESTER, KENTUCKY -- My car was serviced at Wal-Mart in April 2007. Several weeks later, the brakes seemed spongy and unresponsive, especially under heavy braking. There were a few instances in which accidents were narrowly avoided. Once the brakes developed a noise in the right front portion of the car, I immediately had the car serviced by a qualified mechanic. Dan, a master mechanic worked on the car and inquired about the car’s last service appointment, because the brake fluid was contaminated with power steering fluid. I knew the last service was at Wal-Mart and once I located the receipt I proceeded to the Wal-Mart location in Winchester KY. I was unable to speak with the store manager and settled for the Assistant manager, Brad. I discussed the situation with Brad and he was unsure how to handle the situation and told me that management would be in contact. I told Brad that if any items related to the repair needed to be retained it would have to be done immediately, because the mechanic had to retrieve the items (i.e., the master cylinder was turned in due to a core charge, the fluid had to be isolated, etc). Brad told me that there was no need to retain the replaced automotive parts and/or fluid.
Not satisfied with the manner in which my complaint was being handled, I called the district manager, David, as soon as I returned home. His assistant would not allow me to speak with David, but informed me that my contact information and complaint would be forwarded to James, the district manager of the Automotive Department at Wal-Mart. David’s assistant told me that James would call later that day or early the next day. After my patience was exhausted, I emailed customer support at WalMart.com and finally received a call from James. He told me “that there was no possible way the mechanic could have made this mistake, because the mechanic had been doing the job for 10 years and besides that, Wal-Mart does not check brake fluid”. I informed him that other mechanics have made this mistake and wondered how Wal-Mart’s automotive department was above making any mistakes. He informed me that my only recourse was to fill out an insurance claim and provide the insurance company with the contaminated brake fluid so it could be examined and tested. I informed him that the contaminated brake fluid needed to be isolated and retained yesterday and his management team was aware of this fact. In addition, I informed him that I was told not to worry about retaining the contaminated fluid. He replied by saying, “I’m sorry about what you were told, but the insurance company needs to test the fluid. Without the fluid there is nothing that can be done.” Understanding that James was of no assistance, I asked for the Regional manager’s contact information. James told me “that he was not going to give me that information”.
In order to contact a member of management to hear my concern, I researched the information on the Internet and found several email address for corporate officers and the board of directors. I emailed corporate and several days later Scott contacted me and I reiterated my complaint. He requested the repair bill and I immediately went to UPS store and had the repair bill faxed to him. After review, Scott returned my call and told me that without “the master cylinder and contaminated fluid, there was nothing that could be done because the insurance company needs to test the fluid”. He also inferred that if Wal-Mart assumed responsibility for their mistake they could be held liable for future claims if the brakes malfunctioned again.
The service rendered by Wal-Mart was done incorrectly and caused severe damage to the braking system of my car. There was negligence on the part of Wal-Mart via the improper utilization of resources. The day my car was serviced, Wal-Mart was under-staffed in the automotive department; this is evident and recorded on the receipt for service. On the bottom right corner of the receipt there are 4 distinct positions required to service my car (see attached receipt). Roy is listed as fulfilling the duties and responsibilities for 3 of the positions. In doing so, I believe Roy was not taking the proper precautions and inadvertently put power steering fluid into my brake system. Other qualified technicians have made this mistake and I see no reason why Roy could not have made the same mistake (see attached forum posting). Wal-Mart management is not taking responsibility for their negligence because I cannot provide 100% proof that they are responsible for the damages. However, Wal-Mart employee Roy was the only person under the hood of my car since it was serviced at Valvoline in October 2006. In addition, when the car was serviced at Valvoline, I was in the bay, along with the manager, and I am certain that Valvoline did not cause this problem. Moreover, I would have noticed brake problems sooner. In addition, neither me nor my wife serviced the car in any manner within this time frame (or ever, actually, we pay to have automotive repairs done).